Photo by MONDRAGON-Corporation on flickr.
We in the civil rights movement have spent that past decades trying to bring about justice and end oppression by organizing and voting, changing laws and bringing lawsuits. In the meantime, bankers seeking higher returns for capital and higher bonuses for themselves have tanked the entire world economy by playing the equivalent of roulette instead of investing in productive enterprises. And corporations are extracting the value of human work, of resources and of the earth itself, all to produce increasing returns on capital, which flows around the planet in search of the best opportunity to exploit workers and extract resources. So a group of civil rights and other progressive activists have come to Mondragon Spain to learn about a different way to pursue justice.
In a somewhat isolated corner of Spain, a high tech, savvy network of cooperative enterprises is thriving with a different set of values. Out of the Basque region of Spain, an area whose residents were subjected to discrimination on the basis of language and ethnicity, has grown a set of enterprises that produce billions in revenues for over 80,000 worker/members while caring for the environment and pursuing collective welfare.
The key is a shared set of values. The values that struck me most are principles no. 3 and 4, a belief in “the Sovereignty of Labor” and “the Instrumental and Subordinate Nature of Capital.” If only we could get the rest of the world to work on these principles. Every worker/member earns a living wage, the highest paid managers in each co-op earn between 4.5 and 9 times the lowest worker salary and capital is owned equally by the members, who get a reasonable return but are required to reinvest most of their dividends to keep the businesses capitalized, and to support expansion, education and incredible research and development.
These are not wild-eyed radicals demonstrating at the WTO. The managers are MBA degree holders, dressed in tailored business suits. The leaders are mostly engineers, creating jobs and wealth following the principles of their founder, a priest who believed in equality and cooperation. THIS IS TRULY REVOLUTIONARY.
Post by Penda Hair. This post is part of a series on the Mondragon Corporation.